Without doubt, the question I was asked most during Chocolate Week was “What’s your favourite chocolate?”
It is of course, a question that’s impossible to answer. When you’re trying new chocolates every day, you’re always making amazing new discoveries, and it’s very difficult to compare current favourites with things you’ve had in the past.
Then there’s the added problem of what people mean when they say ‘chocolate’. Do they mean chocolate bar? Milk or dark? Truffle? Chocolatier? Chocolate maker?
I can’t answer these questions on the spot, but I thought it would be useful to write down a list of some of my current favourite chocolates. Note that these are changing all the time, and they’re limited to what I’ve been exposed to. Ask me again tomorrow and I’ll probably come up with a completely different list. Partly because my tastes will be different tomorrow and partly because I will almost certainly have made another wonderful discovery.
But right here, right now, this is what I like.
Favourite Dark Chocolate Bar
This joint venture between The Grenada Chocolate Company and Rococo is probably the most ethically produced chocolate bar we’ve ever tried. It also happens to be one of the most delicious, and despite the hefty price, it’s something everyone should try.
Favourite Milk Chocolate Bar
This would be my guilty pleasure, but there’s really nothing to feel guilty about. I simply adore this milk chocolate, and I’m sure you will as well. I’m very glad that Simon reviewed it back in September, as it means I can buy it as a self indulgent treat without having to worry about writing a review. One of the best milk chocolates I’ve ever tasted.
Favourite Filled Chocolate
This one is much more difficult. I’ve been particularly impressed with Damian Allsop’s water ganaches lately, but a perennial favourite would have to be Paul A Young’s sea-salt caramel. It’s quite boring by modern standards, but I find it’s the kind of chocolate I enjoy whatever my mood. There are much more exotic flavours out there (I’m currently also loving Paul’s Aqua Riva Tequila Truffle), but this simple dome of goodness is enough for me.
This changes almost daily, but right here, right now, it’s Damian Allsop. He doesn’t do as many experimental flavours as some other chocolatiers, and on the face of it, his creations are quite simple. But his attention to detail and ability to natural chocolate pull flavours out of the chocolate with the simple addition of water is amazing. I particularly like his Pacari Raw water ganache.
Favourite Chocolate Maker
Duffy Sheardown. I remember when we interviewed him for World Chocolate Guide at Chocolate Unwrapped last year, Duffy said making chocolate was ‘surprisingly easy’. Well Duffy has had a tough year and has lost a great deal of chocolate due to circumstances beyond his control. But he has fought back and is currently making some of his best chocolate ever. I don’t believe for a minute that making chocolate from the bean is easy, but it’s the hard work and determination to make it work that make Duffy’s chocolate some of the best in the world.
Hands down, William Curley. There is of course plenty of great patisserie around London and around the world, but I can only go on what I am exposed to and I particularly like the way William works with chocolate. He is of course a chocolatier as well, but it’s the understanding of chocolate that brings to his patisserie that I enjoy the most.
The main reason I like him though is simply that he’s such a nice guy. He’s passionate yet very approachable and easy to talk to. He also wrote my favourite chocolate book of all time, Couture Chocolate.
And There’s More…
Of course, that list only scratches the surface of my favourites. There are many, many other names I need to mention. The amazing people like Amano, Askinosie and Soma making chocolate from the bean in North America. Family business like Chococo, who have the constant struggle of keeping things going during a recession, yet retain their vision of using quality, local ingredients. And let’s not forget, Paul A Young, who makes my favourite chocolate creation of all time, the Easter Simnel Brownie.
Then there’s Hotel Chocolat. A British company that’s now getting rather big internationally, yet still hanging on tightly to its ethics as they expand.
There’s a whole host of smaller chocolatiers who I adore too. The likes of Shelly Preston’s Boutique Aromatique who make beautiful chocolates, and my friend Steph Saffer whose Kokopelli’s Chocolate is just getting going. And I really don’t want to forget the host of newcomers experimenting with making chocolate from the bean like Baravelli’s in North Wales and The Chocolate Tree in Edinburgh.
So there’s my current list of favourites. I know there are many, many names I’ve left off. Please feel free to correct me or add your own opinions in the comments!